WHAMO! Sometimes I Can Still Hear Her Bells…

WHAMO LogoHello, beautiful people! Will Scarlet, here. And it’s time for another edition of “WHAMO!” (which is basically “WWMHO!” – the acronym for “Will Watches Movies, Has Opinions” – but visually catchier).

Today’s pick owes itself to two things.

First: The fact that, up until about a month ago, Tirzah had not yet seen this Disney Renaissance classic in full – (tragedy!) – so Danielle and I totally nabbed it from the library to rectify the situation, to the betterment of all.

Second: I don’t know if you’ve heard, but a certain gorgeous French landmark that’s approximately as old as Robin Hood suffered some considerable fire damage, about a week-and-a-half back. Both Tirzah and Danielle were hit hard by the news, having visited the iconic cathedral for the first (and, so far, only) time just a few years before, and loved it, if not as deeply as a Parisian, then the unique way only their soft little author hearts can.

So, here’s looking at you, Our Lady, with a film animated in your honor:

“The Hunchback of Notre Dame”

Hunchback of Notre Dame poster

The IMDb-official description:

A deformed bell-ringer must assert his independence from a vicious government minister in order to help his friend, a gypsy dancer.

From Disney; directed by Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise; starring Tom Hulce, Demi Moore, Tony Jay.

Stream of Impressions (the highlights):

“ALAJSLKDJF, THIS OPENING NUMBER! There is no – see: NONE – other opening song number on the same level as ‘The Bells of Notre Dame’! Not in Disney, anyway. ‘Deliver Us’ from Dreamworks’ ‘The Prince of Egypt’, sure. Oh, and the ‘Wicked’ musical’s ‘No One Mourns the Wicked’. …Wait… *looks it up* OH MY BARD, Stephen Schwarz was the lyricist behind all three! Genius will out! Hats off to you, sir!”

“So, what, he’s planning to drown a baby in a public drinking well? Like that won’t affect the water quality, at all?”

“Ironic how Frollo claims to be so into God but his horse looks like the actual devil.”

Hit that note and gimme life, Clopin!”

“I dunno how it was in 1996, but I’ve gotten the gist that ‘gypsy’ is considered an offensive term, these days, so we’re gonna have to come up with something else to call the people group this movie is basically centered around. How ‘bout… the Miracle Court? Yeah, we’ll be going with that.”

“I haven’t yet thought to rank the quality of Disney’s ‘I want’ songs, but ‘Out There’ is definitely a top contender. And not just because it’s a huge release after feeling the need to tear off my own skin to get away from Frollo singing to stay in the tower. (Yeah, hi, I spent decades locked up in an immortal Renaissance Faire by an inflexible geezer and I get TRIGGERED.)”

“Question: If Quasimodo’s mom was a— pardon, was one of the Miracle Court… why is he white? Like, not just kind of white. Red-headed white. Did that poor woman die trying to save a baby she adopted when some white family who thought he was too ugly to love kicked him to the Parisian curb?? Does her heroism go even deeper than the script chose to pursue???”

“Bold animating choice to give Esmeralda smaller pupils and dem mega green irises, vs. the huge ‘n’ dewy pupils seen in the average Disney Princess and, say, Quasimodo. Big pupils hold big dreams and a measure of naïveté. Our girl Esmeralda knows too much of the world for that.”

“Can we all agree that Clopin is an actual Faerie or trickster god or some such not-quite-human entity? Because he’s barely trying to blend in, here.”

“All that talk from Frollo about how the outside world would reject Quasi’s face, but the first ones at the Feast of Fools to throw rotten fruit at him were Frollo’s own troublemaking guards. Just. Go figure.”

“Interesting how Esmeralda is the only one in Notre Dame today trying to have a selfless heart-to-heart with God. Tell me again, Frollo, why we have such a vendetta against the Miracle Court? What’s that? – because you’re just using religion as an excuse to feel powerful and superior to your fellow man? Somebody hand me the world’s heaviest Bible; I’ve got a poser to smack down.”

“Obviously, if ever I decide to force my friends to join me in staging a production of ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’, I’m playing Phoebus. That goes without saying. And Allyn’s too flawless to pass for Quasimodo, but that’s what makeup’s for. As for Clopin, have said it before and will say it again: Gant-o’-the-Lute, all day.”

Frollo: “Then tell me, Maria,

Why I see her dancing there,

Why her smold’ring eyes still scorch my soul…”

Will Scarlet: “Because she’s an 11.”

“So, either Frollo legitimately believes that Esmeralda is a wicked, heathen sorceress, or he knows full well she’s just a woman trying to exist in spite of prejudice and patriarchy… and regardless, he’s over here like, ‘She makes me feel things. I must own her or kill her’?!!!!?!??!? Even he knows that’s messed up! And if he really wanted to play the righteous card, now would be the time to pray hard for resistance to temptation. Or, y’know, burn down the homes of the village folk. That works just as well.”

“I have not yet had anything to say about the wacky gargoyle trio, and I still don’t.”

“And now for the Miracle Court’s theme song! In which Clopin’s Fey/trickster/what-have-you status is on fuller display than ever.”

“Frollo did us the bamboozle! The Court of Miracles is compromised! Notre Dame is on fire, but more in a wrathful Te-Kā from ‘Moana’ way, less like the incident in real-life Paris, the other week!”

“Never a more satisfying Disney Villain Death-Fall in the history of ever. Good riddance to hell’s rubbish.”

‘Three cheers for the guy at whom we threw rotten produce, the other day! He saved the pretty girl and stuck it to The Man! Our fickle crowd love is his!’ That’s how you sound, townsfolk. But whatever. Quasi’s happy, we’re happy. Play us out with that sweetly chilling and triumphant ‘Bells of Notre Dame’ reprise.”

More Coherently Summarized:

Though not a particular favorite of Danielle’s childhood – (because it’s a total adult movie masquerading as a kids’ cartoon, yo) – she would in retrospect be the first to tell you that HoND is a masterpiece among masterpieces. The music, top tier. The animation, superb. The message, ever timely. It gets dark, it goes deep, and while Danielle tends to cringe when religion gets vilified, that’s not actually what this movie does. The bad guy isn’t the church itself, it’s the kind of people who would use it to further their own selfish, loveless ends. There are Frollos in the world, alas (and canonically, Robin Hood would rob them blind with a merry ‘ha-ha’). There are also Archdeacon characters who sometimes stand up against evil, though one could argue that they should be fighting harder. And there are Phoebuses who rebel when the orders they’re given cross moral lines, and Esmeraldas who seek to show God’s love despite how little they’ve been shown. For all I know, there are even talking gargoyles. It’s a world of impossibilities, out there.

Where are the POC?

#MiracleCourt. I don’t have the first idea how to grade the movie’s representation of any kind of Romany culture. But they were there, they were integral to the story, and between the two named Miracle Court characters (Clopin and Esmeralda), we got quite the range in personality. Lord only knows what a live-action remake would look like, in this day and age. (Please tell me they’ll nix the word ‘gypsy’…) But since live-action remakes (*cough* or CGI-action remakes, “The Lion King” *cough*) are all the rage at Disney, right now, I guess we’ll find out in – *checks online* – 2021.

Bonus Photo Gallery!

Just a little throwback to the Notre Dame my author once knew in person. Rebuild as you’re able, Paris.


And that’s today’s review! How about you guys? Which is your favorite Disney ‘I want’ song? (Don’t even try to tell me there’s a better opening song; I won’t stand for it.) Where were you when you heard of the recent Notre Dame fire? On a scale of 1 (super skeptical) to 10 (crazy excited), how are you feeling about a live-action HoND remake? Discuss in the comments below!

‘Til next time, babes ~

4 thoughts on “WHAMO! Sometimes I Can Still Hear Her Bells…

  1. Lol, best review of this film I’ve ever seen! 😂 Also, “hell’s rubbish” is the perfect description for Frollo!
    I’ll admit, “I Want” songs aren’t usually my jam, but “Go the Distance” from Hercules is one I’ll always sing along with.

    • “Ha, my thanks, Miranda! ‘Twas a most enjoyable review to put together. And I must agree — ‘Go the Distance’ has been known to inspire some major feels, over here. Something about that horns section just /nails/ it.”

  2. The MUSIC in this movie!!! It is one of Alan Menken’s finest, I have to say. I think that “Out There” is my favorite Disney ‘I want’ song. It’s just…so good.
    I love that your brought of Quasimodo’s mother! Because that’s something I hadn’t noticed until semi-recently and I came to the exact same conclusion! Quasimodo was cast out because of his deformity and it was the outcast people who had the decency to care for him. At least, that makes SO much sense- it must be true. His mom is amazing and we don’t talk about her enough.
    This movie is really took dark for a Disney cartoon, which is I guess why it’s not as wildly popular as Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King? I think a live action remake has a lot of potential- if they just geared it more towards adults from the get-go instead of being awkwardly not really a kid movie or an adult movie. And of course it would still have to be a musical because how could you not use those phenomenal songs? It’s out of the question.
    Great review, Will!

    • “Thanks, sponge supreme! Quite right to give the scoring shout-out to Menken. The man’s a national treasure, and his HoND collab with Schwarz deserves ALL the accolades.

      A more focused target audience for the live-action version could very well make all the difference in its storytelling success. Understandably, one cannot delve as deeply into certain aspects of a tale if you’re mostly trying to sell it to kids. So it may prove interesting to see how the remake will choose to handle everything. …so long as they’re honoring the original Menken/Schwarz soundtrack, as God intended. (Like, feel free to use /additional/ songs, too, if you want. Could give Miracle Court Mom a song number about saving the poor little reject baby from the streets, for instance. Just DO NOT chuck the old.)”

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